Bloomberg News

South Africa Trade Deficit Narrows as Metal Prices Boost Exports

September 30, 2011

Sept. 30 (Bloomberg) -- South Africa’s trade gap narrowed from a six-month high in August as surging metal prices boosted exports, helping to offset an increase in machinery imports.

The deficit eased to 3.7 billion rand ($458 million) from 3.9 billion rand in July, the South African Revenue Service said in an e-mailed statement today. The median estimate of eight economists surveyed by Bloomberg was for a 1.7 billion rand shortfall.

Higher commodity prices may help to restrict the current account deficit, the broadest measure of trade in goods and services, which reached 3.3 percent of gross domestic product in the second quarter. South Africa relies on foreign investment in stocks and bonds to help finance the deficit, flows that have declined since August as investors sold riskier, emerging market assets.

Gold surged 13 percent last month to a record $1,897.60 an ounce on Aug. 22, while platinum climbed 3.7 percent. The two metals account for about a fifth of South African exports, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Exports rose 8 percent to 61 billion rand, more than the 7.2 percent increase that pushed imports to 64.7 billion rand, the Revenue Service said. Exports benefited from a 36 percent surge in chemicals and other industrial products. Machinery imports gained 5 percent and other equipment purchases rose 16 percent, the agency said.

South African exports may come under pressure as growth in Europe, which buys about a third of the nation’s manufactured goods, stalls. South African economic growth slowed in the second quarter to an annualized 1.3 percent, the lowest level in about two years as manufacturing and mining output contracted.

Trade figures are often volatile, reflecting the timing of shipments of commodities such as oil and diamonds.

--Editors: Nasreen Seria, Gordon Bell

To contact the reporter on this story: Andres R. Martinez in Johannesburg at amartinez28@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net


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